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Bringing designers and marketers together, i.e., kill the creative brief and start talking

by | Jun 1, 2018 | Expertise

Marketing and design teams approach creative assignments differently, which can make harmony a challenge. Marketing approaches the project as if talking to a group. Designers approach the project as if talking to one person. The goal for both is to fulfill the brand promise, but they can’t do that until they align the marketing strategy with the creative so it sends the same message from the beginning.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at HOW DesignLive in Boston. Partnering with Cleveland Design client Elizabeth Darragh, VP of Global Marketing Communications at Sensitech, we presented best practices to utilize, drawn from our years of working together, to allow designers and marketers to work together from day one and make great things happen!

We began with how the creative brief should become secondary to open discussions about the project, supported by knowledge, communication, and transparency. Traditionally, the creative brief has been used as the kick-off for campaigns and projects. Filled out by the marketing team, then submitted to the creative team, the brief tried to cover what the project should include to succeed, but it often missed the mark on what is truly required to achieve an excellent outcome.

The creative brief is named “brief” for a reason, it should be short and to the point of the overall project deliverables. The problem with the creative brief is it is created with the assumption everyone has the same background knowledge of the overall mission, including the strategy of company and their brand promise. Relying too heavily on the brief can kill opportunities for communication, shared vision and team support.

The brief does help define the overall scope of the project though, and is a vehicle to document the action plan, schedules, deliverables, and assign responsibilities. However, as a stand-alone document, it falls far short of the knowledge that is truly needed to implement the brand promise in your project or campaign.

To address the shortcomings of the brief, Elizabeth and I created a toolkit, for marketers and designers alike, that promotes clarity to guide the creative process by focusing on three key areas, Knowledge, Communication and Transparency.


Key knowledge of the company everyone on the team should have:

  • The history and the who, what and why of the company
  • How the company has evolved over the years
  • What mergers or acquisitions have occurred
  • The current brand promise and mission
  • Understanding of every product and service, and how each serves the company’s mission and strategy
  • Knowing the target market and demographics, and understanding the difference between the two
  • Knowing which global markets the company is active in, along with the cultural differences in each market


Start talking! Work together, not as two separate teams:

  • Communicate about all aspects of projects from day one
  • Request that everyone be included in initial discussions
  • Share ideas and best practices
  • Keep dialogue flowing throughout the entire process
  • Learn the capabilities of each team member, and utilize those skills


Being open and honest ensures everyone is on the same page while working together towards a successful outcome:

  • Budgets—share from the beginning and discuss what is being allocated for what
  • Give input on long-term budget planning so you can forecast as a team
  • Assign who is responsible for what, discuss deliverables and timelines, review expected outcomes
  • Who are all the decision makers, e.g., do Corporate and Legal need to approve?
  • Are there other product management teams involved?
  • Bring Sales into meetings if they are the end users of the campaign

Utilizing the tips from this toolkit will help create a smart team of marketers and designers that works well together. Start talking from day one, bring your knowledge to the table, and share ideas and expectations. When you commit to work together as a team, aligning creative and marketing strategies, your next project is sure to bring brand promises successfully to life.